Creating alternative livelihoods: REDD+ pilot projects encourage locals to protect forests

PALANGKA RAYA, Indonesia (17 August 2011)_In a country where more than 60 percent of emissions come from deforestation, forest degradation and changes in land use, the work of a pilot REDD+ project in Indonesia to create alternative livelihoods is starting to make headway in improving the income of forest dwellers and encouraging local communities to voluntarily protect their forests.
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The Petak Puti community seeks alternative income by developing fishing ponds in Lake Hai (haik).

PALANGKA RAYA, Indonesia (17 August 2011)_In a country where more than 60 percent of emissions come from deforestation, forest degradation and changes in land use, the work of a pilot REDD+ project in Indonesia to create alternative livelihoods is starting to make headway in improving the income of forest dwellers and encouraging local communities to voluntarily protect their forests.

With the assistance of The Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP), local communities in Tumbang Mangkutub hamlet and the village of Petak Puti in Central Kalimantan are managing their own land and income through programs which aim to improve the quality of rubber production through agricultural training of farmers, development of freshwater fish ponds in wetlands (beje) and ditch blocking to rehydrate dried peatlands.

“For KFCP, the local community is our partner in implementing activities on the ground and we hope these communities will voluntarily protect the forests if REDD+ activities can provide concrete benefits, including improving earnings,” said Erwinsyah, the Coordinator of KFCP, whose activities also include measuring forest carbon levels in Indonesian forests and developing institutions as well as governance frameworks to facilitate REDD+ activities.

KFCP commenced its activities in 2009 under the Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership (IACP), a bilateral institution established to manage a fund of AUD$47 million until 2013 for REDD+ pilot projects. KFCP is currently managing REDD+ programs in seven villages and 14 hamlets in Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province, Central Kalimantan.

“Creating a new livelihood option is an effective way to introduce efforts to reduce deforestation however, we must consider the village’s interests and priorities,” said Levania Santoso, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The community in Petak Puti, for example, is more interested in harvesting rubber, while those in Tumbang Mangkutub are focusing on developing beje approaches.

REDD+ demonstration activities, like those being run by KFCP, are important in the REDD+ learning process to ensure the regulatory framework, socialization and procedures can be successfully implemented on the ground. REDD+ is a key element in Indonesia’s efforts to achieve its commitment to cut emissions by 26 percent from business-as-usual levels in 2020 and it is hoped that lessons learnt can be used in discussions and negotiations in both bilateral and international forums.

“We have been encouraging the community’s active involvement and participation since the inception of the program and even though REDD is a relatively new thing for all of us, we want the community to understand the REDD+ concepts and have direct involvement, because they will be the true actors of REDD activities,” said Erwinsyah.

However, a major roadblock lies in ensuring that these communities understand the importance of forest preservation to slow down climate change. This still needs to be communicated effectively to forest dwelling communities to ensure their full support of the demonstration activity.

“All I know is that REDD+ means the earth is safe from doomsday,” said Sudiyat, who lives in Tumbang Mangkutub hamlet in Central Kalimantan. Surianto, the hamlet’s secretary and Yanto, the head of implementation team from Petak Puti village, believe climate change to be the emission of poisonous gasses however are unable to articulate the real role of forests in reducing these emissions.

Understanding of REDD+ has been complicated by the fact that the mechanism is still evolving and that many of the existing pilot projects (there are over 40 in Indonesia alone) are using different methodologies and approaches.

“REDD is a complex and changing concept,” said Santoso. “Socialization of REDD requires a long time because to understand it well, people must also understand emissions and climate change.”

However, it is hoped that by observing the direct economic and environmental benefits of REDD+ demonstration activities, communities will voluntarily refrain from utilizing economic practices that destroy their environment.

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